Some updates for the massive:
No major changes for the hikers. The altitude limit for safe walking remains at 2000m, (S facing) and 1800m (N facing). It will take several weeks before the higher trails are in condition, for example to the lakes, (still under snow) and the Grand Balcons, N&S.
At altitude, the recent wind and low temperatures have hardened the snow and caused drifting in places. Caution is advised.
- Albert 1er Sector:
The best approach is by the moraine, skiing starting/finishing at the level of the water intake. The normal routes on the Aiguille du Tour, the Tête Blanche and the Petite Fourche are being done. The Table Couloir has a rocky section low down and is being climbed on foot. The 3 cols, the Forbes Arete and the Migot Spur are in condition. The party on the Migot descended by the Forbes Arete, but the normal descent route on the Chardonnet looks OK.
- Argentière Sector:
Ski touring remains popular in this area, but conditions are slowly deteriorating, notably for the Passon, where the moraine presents problems. Crampons/ice axe and ski crampons are necessary for certain routes. The Y couloir has been done, but the bergschrund is awkward.
The snow is thinning on the Courtes NE and the Col des Cristaux.
The lower part of the Lagarde Gully is no longer in condition and parties have turned back.
The Vivagel and Bettembourg/Charlet gullies have been climbed recently, albeit proving more difficult than normal.
Mont Dolent has been climbed from La Fouly by the Gallet ridge and the normal route, (about 30mins of walking).
- Couvercle/Mer de Glace Sector:
The Y Couloir on the Verte was done on 21st April. Conditions OK, but with some deep snow in the gully. Exit by the left branch on granular snow, then hard neve on the ridge. In descent, the Whymper has plenty of snow, though take care near the top as the ice is not far away.
Good track on the Talèfre glacier, crampons needed to descend the “central” couloir. Approach by the Egralets is also possible.
The normal routes on the Droites and Courtes are in condition. Nobody has been to the Pointe Isabelle for the moment. Aiguille de Talèfre N face is very dry.
The Valley Blanche is still being done by the classic route, as well as by the Little and Middle, (true VB), Envers. Conditions OK as far as the Requin hut, then care needed, with weak snow bridges crossing Salle à Manger and 30 mins walking to reach the ice caves below Montenvers. The Valley Noire, (Italian side), is still doable.
Near the Torino; the Dent du Géant, Rochefort Arete, Aiguilles Marbrées, Entreves and Toule are being done. On the Tour Ronde some parties have climbed the SE Ridge, and the Rebuffat and Gervasutti gullies. The N face is dry but feasible. Rock climbing on the Tacul satellites is also possible.
The normal route on the Grandes Jorasses has been done recently in reasonable conditions.
Near the Cosmiques; the Laurence ridge, the Cosmiques ridge and the traverse of the Pointes Lachenal, (some ice) are being done.
Concerning the gullies, most of the activity is on the Chéré and the Contamine-Mazeaud. The Gabarrou-Albinoni and Pellissier are also being climbed, albeit in very dry conditions, (set of Friends advisable.)
The 3 Monts is tracked, no further information, other than there are sections of bare ice, making it unsuitable for a “light” ascent. Col du Plan gully, Eugster Diagonal and Mallory-Porter have been climbed recently in generally good conditions.
- Grands Mulets:
Mont Blanc is being climbed either by the Plateaux or N ridge of the Dôme. There are still passages of ice on the N ridge, requiring good equipment and technical ability. The approach from the Plan de l’Aiguille to the hut is OK. The descent from the summit by the N face no longer looks feasible due to ice.
For those tempted to start from the Tunnel entrance, (roadhead), there is at least 600m height gain, then hard neve, requiring crampons rather than skis with ski crampons, to reach the Gare des Glaciers.
No major changes, it is a on foot as far as the glacier then good conditions for the rest of the approach to the hut. The Mont Tondu, Bérangère, Dômes de Miage traverse are being done. Still some ice on the Domes traverse. It is possible to ski down the Armancette until about 1900m. The Mettrier Ridge is very dry. The Bionnassay ridge is tracked, no further information.
In the Aiguilles Rouges; the Flégère lifts are closed and the Planpraz lift closes at 13h on Sunday, 23rd April.
Mont Buet and the cols in this area remain accessible, with about 45mins of carrying your skis in the Berard valley.
With the good weather, there will certainly be a lot of activity this weekend. The Chamoniarde ( http://www.chamoniarde.com/?page_id=1857&lang=en ), looks forward to receiving your reports.